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The Characteristics of a Traditional Ode


Ode poems have been around for thousands of years. Their popularity is not surprising when we take a look at what these poems do. A formal way to offer praise to heroes, loved ones and historical events, the traditional ode is a powerful way for poets commemorate the things that inspire them.

Getting to Know Traditional Odes

Ode poems were first written by the ancient Greeks. Traditional odes are an example of lyric poetry, which means that they have a regular rhyme scheme, pertain to feelings or emotions and generally use only one speaker's perspective. The characteristics of an ode vary depending on the time period and geographical location in which it was written. Although there are three main categories of traditional odes, there are numerous variations of this kind of verse.

Types of Traditional Odes

Historically, there are three types of traditional odes: Pindaric, Horatian and English. Later English odes are sometimes called Romantic odes. These labels refer to style, time period and country of origin. In terms of poem structure, though, scholars categorize odes as either Pindaric, Horatian or irregular. In general, English odes are synonymous with irregular odes, although some English poets chose to experiment with Pindaric or Horatian poem structure. Don't let these categories confuse you. A quick examination of a poem's characteristics will let you know how to label it.

History of Traditional Odes

Pindar, an ancient Greek poet, invented the ode. His poems were originally set to music, and they followed a strict format. A poem written in this style is called a "Pindaric ode." Classical Roman odes are called "Horatian odes" after the poet Horace. They are often more intimate and personal than Pindaric odes. Poets in England developed the irregular ode in the 17th century. These English odes combine the Pindaric and Horatian forms, along with new innovations. Later English poets took more freedom with the form and subject matter of traditional verse when they came up with the Romantic ode. This type of poem is more emotional and personal than any of its predecessors.

Structure of Traditional Odes

Traditional odes often have a predetermined rhyme scheme and a fixed number of sections. Pindaric odes from ancient Greece have three sections: the strophe, the antistrophe and the epode. These sections are made up of stanzas, or groups of lines with the same rhythm (or meter) and rhyme pattern. The English ode is often called an irregular ode because its form abandoned the three sections of the Pindaric ode, which gave writers more freedom. English odes usually have a regular rhyme scheme.

Subject Matter of Traditional Odes

In classical Greece, the Pindaric ode was written in praise of people, places or events. These poems often celebrated athletes. Horatian odes typically praised a friend. In the English ode, poets continued to use odes as a way to offer praise. They wrote odes that were more emotional than those written by the ancients. Poets examined their feelings and thoughts in these odes. These poems are often meditations on a particular person or place that inspires feeling in the speaker.

About the Author

Based in Nashville, Deborah Walden has been writing professionally since 1997, starting as a sports writer for her college newspaper. Her articles have appeared in "Nashville Arts Magazine" and "The Nashville Scene," among other publications. Walden holds a Master of Arts in art history from Vanderbilt University.

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